I just got off the phone with someone who described one of my kids as wonderfully expressive.
Unfortunately, the child is drawn to trouble and occasionally expresses herself with her fists. Rarely does she start the tomfoolery, but often she finishes it.
I kind of laugh, not because it's funny, but because it helps me stay sane.
When she was a baby we called her "The Handler" because she was less verbal and more likely to defend herself using force. I'll be the first to admit it: While I don't condone violence, I take a little joy in my child not being a doormat. I think we all do. This, in no way, condones bullying on any level. I'm talking about your kid having the guts to stand up for herself or himself.
Often we tell our kids not to go looking for trouble, but sometimes it still finds them. Some of them seem more drawn to it than others and I'd like to address that "expressive" side right there before "expressive" becomes drama seeking. I'm thinking of the scene in "Finding Nemo" when they are supposed to go through the trench, not over it. It's a Disney/Pixar movie about a fish. Please excuse me, my brain has been over taken by random Google searches and PG movies. The fish were supposed to go through the trench and not over it, but they went over anyway and got themselves into trouble with the jellyfish.
Where are you supposed to be? Who are your jellyfish, aka pot stirrers? ... Both helpful questions for avoiding trouble.
When my kids find themselves in a conflict with a peer, I usually ask them to take these steps:
1. Firmly tell the person bothering you to stop. Not rocket science.
2. If they do not stop, remove yourself from their presence. Get away from the fire.
3. Tell an adult if it continues and is a problem that is causing you or someone else pain. Someone saying the word "butt" is not a real problem ... walk away.
4. If you have exhausted all of these steps, then you have my permission to defend yourself. Remember that no one, and I mean no one, has the right to physically put their hands on you without your permission ... and until you're 26, my permission as well.
No one wants their kid to get in a fight and get the dreaded note from the teacher, but alas ... here we are.
This our first spat warranting a note. I'm not sure what's more surprising, the fact that we got in a fight or that I have four kids and this is my first note.
I'd like to gather all the facts before I react on this one, so I question the perpetrator.
She explains that she did in fact "join in" the fighting. I asked her to elaborate. She says that Voldemort (he who shall not be named) pushed her a few times and she decided to fight back and a wrestling match ensued. Unfortunately, this was during an assembly.
We walked through the steps:
Did you ask him to stop? Yes.
How many times did you ask him to stop? Three.
Why didn't you move away? I couldn't move.
Did you tell a teacher? Well I explained why ...
Nope. OK. We review protocol. We take this opportunity to go over what should have happened and how to avoid things like this in the future. All these teachable moments make me want a nap!
Five minutes later I'm so over it. Many times as a parent I'm trying to decide how mad I actually am while trying desperately to keep a straight face. While I don't find fights all that amusing, some of the details are and I know I will look back on the shenanigans of their childhood and smile.
Also excuse me for trying to bask in one of the perks of their strong-willed nature and what will probably take them far in life. They don't take anything off anyone and I'm not altogether sorry.
Now ... what sort of punishment should be handed out, if any?
Gathering the facts of this particular event, I feel like going over the steps to avoid trouble was good but probably a little lenient. I decide to hand out some chores with a plea to steer away from trouble, don't head straight for it. Go through the trench, not over it ... and I'm feeling a movie night tonight.
Jen Reekie was born and raised in Quincy and received a communications degree at the University of Kansas, which has come in quite handy as she communicates every day with four children who don't hear a word she says. This stay-at-home mom enjoys the challenge, though, and shares her experiences in this blog, "Mum's the Word." She welcomes your feedback, questions and stories about staying sane while raising kids.